Thursday, June 18, 2009

Social Media For PR Purposes: It's All About Monitoring

In my most recent post, I introduced the concept of being a "sponge" in regards to social media. Basically, one should absorb as much information as he or she can and squeeze out that which doesn't resonate with personal opinions. I know there is an information-overload when it comes to social media -- everyone wants to have a hand in the revolution and prove their expertise to clients and other professionals.

I do not wish to be considered a front-runner in the movement. First, I am far too humble. Second, I am learning with the rest of you. Still, I have to add my two-cents.

This is the first of a three-part series entitled, "Social Media For PR Purposes." I reiterate that there are more than three practical uses of social media as it relates to the practice of public relations. I simply hold a few above the rest in importance and usefulness.

#1 - Monitoring public opinion / Gaging impact

Simply having a presence in the social media realm does NOT constitute strategy or effective communication. First of all, any kind of marketing requires a high level of observation -- social media is certainly no exception. In fact, social media provides marketers with more observation/research/analysis capabilities and opportunities than anything witnessed in the recent past. The many sites on the Web -- and there are TONS -- afford marketers, especially PR pros, the ability to identify customers and where they choose to acquire information.

Brian Solis is a leader of this school of thought. His blog constantly reminds us of the traditional, PR fundamentals new media offers practitioners. The basic principles of PR are unchanged. In many ways, this new medium just makes it easier to accomplish our objectives. Solis states that we should listen then participate -- good advice many overlook or refuse to acknowledge.

These misguided individuals believe having profiles on Facebook and accounts on Twitter constitutes being "involved" with social media. They are in for a rude awakening. First, you must listen. You must ask yourself numerous questions before engaging with audiences.

Where are relevant conversations taking place? Who's participating? What are they saying? What information are they looking for? What are their behavior patterns? What are their conceptions? These are all questions one must ask before attempting to participate.

Participation comes after interpretation.

The sheer magnitude and volume of these sites requires significant time and examination. But that is not all I mean when I say social media should be used for monitoring purposes. More than anything, PR pros should focus on gaging public opinion, understanding conceptions, realizing concerns, and listening to what their audiences are saying about their company or client.

Social media sites provide us with a wealth of information about those we wish to encounter and influence right at our fingertips. Twitter's existence allows us to actually "listen" to consumers/stakeholders/etc. in real-time. Blogs give our audience an audience. But we must not be scared of this viral revolution. We must embrace it and realize the many benefits it offers the field of communications. Social media is all about communication. It is a medium for people to communicate with each other. PR pros just need to listen to the conversations, define the problem, and then engage in the coveted two-way communication.

Once we understand the monitoring capabilities of social media, we can move further and use the new medium for other basic PR principles/purposes -- which we will discuss in parts 1 and 2 of "Social Media For PR Purposes."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not Just Another Post About Social Media and PR

The discussion of social media's role in the practice of public relations can be found throughout the Web -- many may say too frequently. But in reality, those who say they've grown tired of this discussion are more likely to read posts on the topic than anyone else. So, why fight it? If social media is really here to stay, we should attempt to learn as much about it as possible. We should read as many blog posts on the topic as we can.

Public relations is a multifaceted practice that grows in relevance and prominence each day. In a relatively short period of time, it has evolved and adapted to changes in society with grace. As society continues its seemingly continuous evolution, public relations finds new ways to evolve with it.

From the early days of Edward Berneys to the emergence of social media, public relations has offered practical applications for business strategies. Social media's importance in regards to the practice of public relations will increase as media tendencies continue to shift. But this shift should be seen as a positive one. Social media has made a big splash in a short amount of time. To ignore it for much longer would prove to be devastating to your career and reputation.

Social media's importance rests in its impact on the traditional media landscape.

With its viral, unedited and informal format, social media has altered the media more than any medium in recent history. Those who wrote television off as a "fad" or as not having the clout newspapers held, are surly not around to tell the story of their failures. We must embrace these changes and understand that this new medium presents new opportunities for public relations. The integration of social media into the overall media landscape creates challenges, but those challenges create ample opportunity.

There is no doubt you have examined how social media emerged and feel there is very little left to read about its place in the marketing mix, or in a PR plan. And I am sure you have investigated how social media tools can be used for public relations purposes. So, why waste your time with studying this phenomenon any further?

Because there is much to learn from someone else's perspective.

It is important to encounter opinions on a daily basis. If you simply rely on your own thoughts and reasoning, you risk becoming a narrow-minded, selfish, bitter old man. You must realize that everyone has their own thesis on best practices when it comes to social media. Although you may not agree with them -- as I don't agree with much of what I read -- you become a better communicator just by acknowledging other's points-of-view. It is good to be a sponge. Absorb as much knowledge as you can and squeeze out that which is undesirable -- it's simple really.

To contribute to your understanding of social media and its place in the practice of public relations, I have developed my own thesis. Stay tuned for a three-part special on social media's role in PR.

There are three dominant functions of social media as a PR tool. I will discuss each of the three in separate posts throughout the next few weeks.

What are the three functions? Why those three? These questions will be answered in the near future. I understand I am no "expert" and I understand you may already have your own "Top 3 Functions of Social Media." But again, it is always beneficial to hear the other side of the story. Maybe you know more than me. Maybe your conclusion is better than mine. That's what the 'comments' section is for. Let me know what you think.

For now, I reiterate that there are three fundamentals of social media one must comprehend before beginning to indulge in the revolution. While there are many reasons to use social media for public relations purposes, I feel there are three that rise above the rest.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Are We Ever Really Too Busy?

It's been a while since I posted on here -- maybe more than just "a while." I'd like to say I've been too busy, but that is the easy way out. Plus, if I read that someone had "been too busy" I wouldn't believe them or consider that a viable excuse for the neglect of comprising blog posts -- after all, how much time does it actually take.

Honestly, I have had a lot going on. My recent graduation and job hunt have occupied a majority of my time. For the past few months, I've been seeking new opportunities now that I have earned my degree. But it is tough out there. Still, I remain confident and optimistic about the future.

Well, if you are looking for a job, why don't you blog about that?

That is a question I've been asked a lot lately. It's a question I've been asking myself. My answer -- no one wants to hear about a twenty-something PR guy's job search. This blog exists to discuss PR and issues pertaining to its practice, future and relevance. So, I promise to get back on the horse and start writing.

Plans for the future?

What an open-ended question -- another one I have been both asked a lot lately. Personally, I am not a 'plan for the future' kind of guy. I am organized and think a lot about what I hope to accomplish, but I have always subscribed to the theory of 'going with the flow.' My plans require a stronger focus on the immediate future at this particular point in my life. I have no time to contemplate on long-term goals and expectations. Besides, I have always had a knack for exceeding expectations.

Anyway, just wanted to get back in the swing of things with this post. I understand it isn't interesting, but I simply want to assure my readers -- the few there are -- I will be posting more frequently in the near future.

Thanks for the support!